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News: ‘Innovation Expo’ Archive

Video: Google’s Green Energy Czar Bill Weihl Calls for Investment in Innovation to Address Climate Change

Thursday, March 4th, 2010

Berkeley, March 3, 2010

Bill Weihl, Google’s Green Energy Czar, was the keynote speaker at the BERC’s (Berkeley Energy and Research Collaborative) Innovation Expo kicking off the Energy Symposium at the University of California Berkeley. The evening event featured some 80 poster presentations by energy researchers, students, and policy makers, and the local start-up community.

Partial excerpts from Bill Weihl’s talk:

“We see the climate problem as one of the most pressing problems facing humanity.”

“And I’m sure all of you know the scale of the problem we face, we need to transform our energy infrastructure virtually completely. It’s perhaps the most daunting problem that modern civilization has ever faced on many fronts, technology, leadership, global cooperation, and on and on. The good news is that … it is a solvable problem.”

“We need really serious breakthroughs in technology and we need them soon, to provide the… clean energy technologies required to transform our energy infrastructure at scale in the time frame needed to really avert what could be catastrophic climate change.”

Bill also commented on Google’s RECC Intiative (Renewable Electricity Cheaper than Coal)
“Our belief is that getting the price of renewables below the price of the polluting alternatives is essential to get them adopted by scale. To really transform our energy infrastructure and get to zero carbon by 2050 we need cheap clean sources of energy. We do believe we need to put a price on carbon and we need to begin to internalize all those externalities. That will send a price signal, hopefully that will begin to spur innovation, it’ll spur deployment for zero carbon technologies… but that alone I believe is almost certainly not enough..and maybe a different way of putting it, it’s the same argument I heard Bernie ? of MIT make a years ago, about actually trying to take action around climate change. It’s really an application of the precautionary principle. If we fail to take action because we think maybe climate change isn’t real and we’re wrong, the consequences are enormous. In the same way, if we rely solely on a price signal on carbon, that in particular for a number of years is unlikely to be a very strong signal, and assume that will spur the innovation that we need, and in twenty years discover that we’re wrong, it’s far too late to fix this. So I believe we need to deploy many policy mechanisms, and one of the most important is investment in technology innovation, directly investing in the innovation to develop the technologies we need, not relying on a price signal and hoping the market will stir the right innovation.”

Part 2

Report by James George